Salk Institute and UC San Diego Health clinical study shows how lifestyle intervention can improve cardiovascular health in shift workers – ScienceDaily

Firefighters are the heroes of our society, protecting us around the clock. But these 24-hour shifts are hard on the body and increase the risk of cardiometabolic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, as well as cancer. In collaboration with the San Diego Fire and Rescue Department, scientists from the Salk Institute and UC San Diego Health conducted a clinical trial and found that time-restricted meals improved the health and well-being of firefighters. The lifestyle intervention only required firefighters to eat within a 10-hour window and did not include skipping meals.

The new findings, published in Cellular metabolism on 4 October 2022 may also have implications for shift workers such as military personnel; healthcare, food service and transportation professionals; telecommunications personnel; and new parents whose schedules often mimic shift work when caring for a new baby.

“Doctors and researchers are always thinking about the magic pill that can cure or reduce disease. Our study showed that shift workers with high blood pressure, blood sugar or cholesterol can benefit from a simple lifestyle intervention called time-restricted eating,” said Salk Professor Satchidananda Panda, co-author of the study and holder of the Rita Chair and Richard Atkinson. “It’s not a pill, but a healthy habit that can significantly reduce these three disease risks without any adverse side effects.”

Almost every cell in the body has a 24-hour biological clock that produces circadian (daily) rhythms. These rhythms regulate behavior (eg when to be active and when to rest) and physiology (eg blood pressure, blood sugar, muscle function). Circadian rhythms are coordinated with the environment in part through regular, synchronized cycles of light and dark, feeding and fasting. The disruption to these cycles that can occur with shift work can affect health, leading to obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Nearly 30 percent of Americans are considered to work shifts that require the individual to stay awake for two to three hours between 10:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. for at least 50 days a year. Increasing sleep and reducing calorie intake are often difficult, but previous studies suggest that time-restricted eating (eating within a specific time frame) may offer a simple behavior change to improve health.

“We were excited to participate in this clinical trial because our department is always looking for innovative ways to improve the health of our firefighters,” said David Picone, San Diego Health and Safety Battalion Chief.

In this clinical trial, 150 firefighters from the San Diego Fire and Rescue Department used the myCircadianClock app on their phones to track their nutrition for three months. Half the group ate within a 10-hour window, while the other half (the control group) did nothing and ate within a 14-hour window. Both groups were encouraged to follow a Mediterranean diet known to have health benefits. The study included both healthy individuals and those with obesity or health problems such as high blood pressure, cholesterol and/or blood sugar.

“Most clinical trials exclude shift workers, but these are the individuals at highest risk of disease. So it was imperative for us to test our lifestyle intervention in shift workers with a continuum of disease risks,” says first author Emily Manougian, a staff scientist in the Panda lab at Salk. “Because shift workers are incredibly busy, using an app to track their habits and observing them at their stations instead of the clinic whenever possible allowed these individuals to participate in the trial more easily.”

Researchers found that time-restricted feeding within a 10-hour feeding window was possible without adverse effects and helped firefighters significantly reduce the size of their VLDL (“bad”) cholesterol by 1.34 nanometers (small VLDL is -unlikely to block arteries), improve their mental health and reduce their alcohol intake by approximately three drinks per week. Time-restricted eating also significantly improved blood sugar and blood pressure in firefighters who had elevated levels at the start of the study. The researchers conclude that time-restricted eating may provide even greater benefit to those at risk for cardiometabolic disease and other chronic diseases.

“We have shown that time-restricted eating is a possible way for shift workers, such as firefighters, to improve their cardiovascular health and well-being,” says Pam Taub, co-author and professor of medicine at the UC San Diego School of Medicine and a cardiologist. at UC San Diego Health. “These findings can likely be extended to a wider population, including healthcare workers such as nurses and others who experience abnormal sleep-wake patterns.”

“Participating in this study was an exciting experience that provided valuable information that we can use to make better choices to improve our health,” said San Diego Fire Captain Mark Dombroski.

In the future, the authors plan to expand the use of time-restricted meals to multiple fire districts to help more firefighters improve their health.

Other authors include Nikko R. Gutierrez, Azarin Shoghi, Xinran Wang, Jialu Sui, and Zhaoyi Hou of Salk; and Adena Zadourian, Hannah K. Law, Ashley Rosander, Ariana Pazargadi, Cameron K. Ormiston, Jason G. Fleischer, and Shahrokh Golshan of the University of California, San Diego.

The work was funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (EMW-2016-FP-00788), a Larry L. Hillblom Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, a Salk Women in Science Fellowship, the National Institutes of Health (DK118278, CA 258221, and CA236352). The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Wu Tsai Alliance for Human Outcomes, and the Joe and Clara Tsai Foundation, the William H. Donner Foundation, and the Martha P. Mack Foundation.

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